Many south Indian recipes use coconut milk to make a curry rich and thick. Popular in Kerala, the land of coconuts, it gives the signature delicious taste to their cuisine. I had grown up with the belief that eating coconut is bad for you because it was high in bad fats and was full of calories.  Recently I have been seeing more coconut milk being sold in health food stores and chain groceries because coconut milk is being substituted in recipes by vegetarians who do not consume animal products and by those who are lactose intolerant. In discussions with some of my Indian friends and family, I began to question my lifelong assumption.


Coconut Milk and Heavy Cream


1 cup Coconut Milk Heavy Cream
552 calories 414 calories
Fat 57g 44g
Saturated Fat 51g 28g
Cholesterol 0mg 164mg
Fiber 5g 9g
Protein 5g 2g



 can of coconut milkYes, coconut milk has 33% more calories and 30% more fat than heavy cream. It even has a whopping 82% more saturated fat. On the positive side, it has no cholesterol and more protein. Experts will argue that coconut milk’s saturated fat is plant based rather than from animals so it is not as unhealthy as cream.


My sources believe that coconut milk is superior because those who include it in their diets have lower cholesterol and incidence of heart disease. I think there is more to it. The question should be stated: Which do you prefer? Since the data are not that horribly different and both are high in calories and fat, the answer should be use whichever you like, but in moderation: use light cream, light coconut milk dilute your cream with milk, or dilute your coconut milk with water. The bottom line is use them in you Indian recipes but don’t go overboard.


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